Written by Brent Landels on November 8, 2012
in Social Media Marketing

It’s the stuff of nightmares. The thing that makes marketers wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with their hearts racing: a social media firestorm.

We’ve all seen it happen. Whatever the cause – a social media flub, a bad product or customer service experience, or even a brand highjacking – the social web singles out a brand and ignites a firestorm of complaints, derisive comments, trolling, and the memes, oh god, the memes.

This is the risk of social media exposure. While brands can benefit from increased awareness, loyalty and sales by engaging with consumers or being talked about in the digital space, they also run the risk of being open to social media backlash that can cripple or even ruin their brand image.

You can be better equipped to avoid common pitfalls by setting out a social media policy ahead of time, but what steps should you take to address a crisis, protect your brand, and even repair some of the damage once you’re in the thick of it?

The AAAHHH! approach

In developing your policy, just remember the acronym AAAHHH! Simple enough – it’s likely the first thing that pops in your head when you’ve stumbled into a social media crisis.

  • Acceptance – By openly accepting responsibility or apologizing for whatever actions have motivated the Internet mobs to bring out the torches and pitch forks, you’re taking control of your half of the conversation. Denial, arguments, or ignoring complaints can incite your audience further. Start the dialogue by demonstrating you accept your role in the situation and want to engage with your audience openly.
  • Action – Take steps to rectify the situation that has spurred on the backlash. Actions speak louder than words, so demonstrate that you are listening and actively addressing your audience’s concerns.
  • Appeasement – Go above and beyond. Don’t simply demonstrate that you want this current trial to end (oh please, please, make it stop!). Make amends with your audience by rewarding them for their continued loyalty and respecting them as customers. Many brands use discounts, offers, or free shipping to appease those affected during a social media crisis.

The triple As of social media crowd control are valuable steps, but they’re only one half of the equation in dealing with your audience online. Since social media is a conversation, your tone affects how everything you say will be perceived.

When handling a social media crisis, ensure your response reflects honesty, humility, and humour. If you address your audience’s concerns without being evasive, by being humble, and having a sense of humour about the situation, you’ll be making consistent strides toward repairing the relationship between your brand and your customers.

Either that, or hide under the blankets until it blows over.

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Has your brand ever faced a social media crisis? How did you resolve it?

What are your recommendations for handling social media crowd control?

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